~I’d Rather Have Jesus (1)
Forty years ago Bev Shea was attending the Bible School in Ottawa (Ontario) where I was teaching. He loved to sing. After more training in New York City he was given an audition at one of the radio stations and was offered a contract.
He asked that he might sing Gospel songs. He was told that he might use one occasionally, but he would have to use the songs on the Hit Parade.
What would he do? His mother was praying.
On Saturday night she placed a poem on the piano. In the morning he composed a tune for it. One verse was: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold: I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy Name!”
Bev turned down the contract.
A short time later he was offered a position with a Chicago radio station where he might use the Gospel songs he loved. While there he met Billy Graham.
The rest of the story is well-known.
—R. Barclay Warren
I'd Rather Have Jesus
(1) I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin's dread sway;
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
(2) I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name.
(3) He's fairer than liles of rarest bloom,
He's sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He's all that my hungering spirit needs,
I'd rather have Jesus and let Him lead.
~I’d Rather Have Jesus (2)
When King George VI and the queen visited Washington, DC, a state dinner was given in their honor. Chief Whitefeather, an Indian, began the program by singing the British anthem. After the applause the chief sang, to the surprise of those present, the hymn whose opening words are, I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold!
Later in the evening, the chief sat near the king and queen. Tactfully he asked the queen, Do you believe on Jesus? The queen replied graciously, He is the Possessor of my heart, and of my husband’s also! The king, smiling, added, I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold!
~I’d Rather Have Jesus (3)
It was in the thirties. Business curves were still heading downward and there was rumor of a salary cut at the New York insurance office where twenty-two-year-old Beverly Shea was employed as a clerk. Possessor of a deep melodious voice, the young man was offered a radio contract and immediately saw opportunities for fame and possible riches in his regular appearance on a secular program.
He had been pondering the matter for several days when he sat down to the piano early one Sunday morning to rehearse a hymn he was to sing in church that morning. As he played and sang his eyes fell on a piece of paper, on which was written:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold!
The poem, by Mrs. Rhea Miller, had been placed where Beverly would see it by his mother, a minister’s wife, who knew of the offer her son was pondering. Above all, she wanted her son, a Christian, to become wholly consecrated to his service.
As his eyes raced over the words, the sentences I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause and I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame struck his very heart. His fingers unconsciously left the tune he was rehearsing and began to find this melody which is today known to millions.
—Earl C. Willer
~I’d Rather Have Jesus (4)
George Beverly Shea yielded his talents and his life to the service of Christ at a very early age. Because he realized that in this life only what is done for Christ is of any lasting value, his singing has been a blessing around the world.
I wrote ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ in 1933, said Shea. As I sat one evening playing the piano, my mother brought to me a piece of paper on which was written a poem by Rhea Miller. She thought it to be a very wonderful poem and wanted me to read it. She then asked me to try my hand at writing a melody for it. I began to play as a melody came to me. I then sang and played for the first time ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus.’
When the rich voice of George Beverly Shea is but a memory, many happy Christians will still be singing his song.